The Students enrolled in HON 396, Nineteenth Century Paris, traveled to Paris March 8-11 to better understand French culture and apply what they have been learning all semester in the classroom.
While in Paris, students visited between two to three different sites every day and were usually done by 3 p.m. This allowed them some free time to explore the city on their own.
Susan Hennessy, associate professor of French at Western, accompanied the 18 students on the trip, which cost $1045 per student, plus tuition fees.
â€œThe nicest thing was that the sites we had studied in class we were able to visit firsthand,â€ Hennessy said. â€œSince the students had done presentations and studied the sites, it brought things to life for them.â€
Western student Alyssa Smith was able to visit the subject of a presentation she gave for the course, putting the assignment into a new perspective.
â€œI especially enjoyed visiting the Rodin Museum because I created a presentation on Rodin and Camille Claudel for the colloquium class,â€ Smith said. â€œAt the museum, I was able to see all of the sculptures that I had studied for class.â€
Western student Anthony Egbert studied the work of Haussmann, who helped shape the urban layout of Paris during the mid-to-late nineteenth century.
â€œI was amazed at how much Paris had still retained many of Haussmannâ€™s innovations and styles,â€ Egbert said. â€œIt was wonderful to actually be able to go to Paris and actually witness firsthand many of the things that these people had talked about.â€
Among Smithâ€™s favorite stops was the Paris Sainte-Chapelle, a Gothic chapel known for its ornate stained glass. Also, she enjoyed the neighborhood of Montmarte, known for its cabaret district, most famously, the Moulin Rouge. She and some of the other students also went to the Catacombs.
â€œThey were tunnels underground that included walls and walls made of human bones,â€ Smith said. â€œIt was definitely very different, but really interesting.â€
The students also visited the Eiffel Tower, a must-see for any visitor to Paris. And Egbert, who visited Notre Dame during Sunday Mass, said it was the closest thing to a spiritual experience he has ever had.
â€œIt was quite humbling to walk around the sanctuary and look at the magnificent vaulted ceilings, the sparkling stained glass windows illuminated by the full morning sun and all the while listen to one of the most beautiful hymns that I have ever heard reverberating throughout la Notre Dameâ€™s sanctuary,â€ Egbert said.
Regardless of what was visited, Smith said that she thinks the students understand better the history and how important the sites are to the French.
â€œI think that by experiencing another culture, we also learned more about our own,â€ she said.
Students were also able to compare French culture with that of the U.S.
â€œA lot of students were surprised to see how important fashion is in Paris,â€ said Hennessy, referring to Parisian style. â€œMen and women alike pay close attention to their appearance, and to the typical American, it can make you feel out of place.â€
Smith said she discovered that many of the negative stereotypes about the French were untrue.
â€œI was surprised by the fact that many of the Parisians that we spoke with in Paris were very nice,â€ Smith said. â€œWe also met some Parisians that were not as welcoming or willing to help us, but they were outnumbered by the nicer Parisians.â€
While the students shared many of the same opinions of the culture clash, not all opinions were universally held by the group.
â€œEveryone had different ideas about what was strange or unusual,â€ Hennessy said.
Hennessy has seen that since the group has returned from Paris, learning about French culture through the trip compared to in the classroom has made all the difference.
â€œI think it just makes everything real, to be able to get within six inches of artwork youâ€™ve studied in books or seen on a computer screen makes it so much more real,â€ Hennessy said. â€œItâ€™s very hard to appreciate something from a distance, I think. That is the heart of applied learning.â€
*Accompanying this article is a Flash slideshow.